A wise man once said that you can’t possibly judge a person’s spiritual progress from outward appearances alone. This was certainly the case for a friend of mine who was like any elderly lady catching the local bus to the Supermarket for the weekly shop. Yet I knew she had spent a lifetime of quiet study of theosophical books, raised a family, was a responsible member of her local community, and was ever conscious to put spiritual book-learning into daily-life practice.

She told me that during one of her regular shopping expeditions, a complete stranger, a young lady, had confronted her at the bus stop and said – “I had to come over and see you. I must talk with you.” Without questioning her motives, my friend sat down and several buses went drifting by whilst they talked together for a couple of hours. It turned out that this young lady was on her way to commit suicide when she felt irresistibly drawn to the old lady in the bus stop.

Her extreme situation seems to have somehow forced open the doors of inner perception for the distressed young lady. She said that, as she walked by the bus-stop she could see a kind of bright light surrounding the old lady and above her head the vision of an open door amidst the light. This amazing sight prompted her to speak to a complete stranger about her most private thoughts and fears. After a couple of hours earnest talking together, she changed her mind about suicide. She resolved to face her problems, and go on living with her new-found friend there to provide timely advice, as by now they were firm friends. As far as I know, she has since gone on to live a full and happy life.

The thought struck me, just how many lifetimes of earnest application to both the study and living of her philosophy this friend of mine must have completed to reach this stage of spiritual development to where she shone with the inner ‘buddhic’ light of pure compassion. How amazing to be just right there at that bus-stop when she was most needed, and for this to be recognized by someone in great need of guidance at that particular moment. Surely this was not by chance, but the compassionate workings of the Law of Karma. Certainly, none of our efforts in our spiritual endeavours are wasted even if it seems that we may sit studying alone for hours seemingly unnoticed, or work in unspectacular careers. What we are inwardly from moment to moment must be vastly important. We show our ‘true colours’ when we are placed under the acid tests of life experience – and that may happen even when we are waiting for the local bus!

Kent Nerburn, from his book, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace, put these thoughts beautifully when he wrote:

 “We are not saints, we are not heroes. Our lives are lived in the quiet corners of the ordinary. We build tiny hearth fires, sometimes barely strong enough to give off warmth. But to the person lost in the darkness, our tiny flame may be the road to safety, the path to salvation. It is not given us to know who is lost in the darkness that surrounds us or even if our light is seen. We can only know that against even the smallest of lights, darkness cannot stand. A sailor lost at sea can be guided home by a single candle. A person lost in a wood can be led to safety by a flickering flame. It is not an issue of quality or intensity or purity. It is simply an issue of the presence of light.”
It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness – Chinese